Generation Z: A Driving Force

Add car ownership to the list of things that differentiates Generation Z from Millennials.

With the emergence of transportation services such as Uber and Lyft, many automakers feared that Americans were losing interest in the idea of owning their own car. That doesn’t appear to be the case, at least among Generation Z. According to a recent AutoTrader and Kelley Blue Book survey, 92% of Gen Z owns or wants to own a vehicle.

In fact, the degree to which Gen Z wants to own a car may surprise you:

  • 63% of non-vehicle owning teenagers who were polled would rather have a car for a year than buy any new clothes for a year
  • 71% would rather have a car for a year than attend entertaining events
  • 74% would rather have a car for a year than eat out
  • 72% would rather have a car for a year than use social media

I’ll believe that last one when I see it.

If you’re an automaker, this is cause for celebration; it’s also reason to spend extra effort marketing to this demographic – one that’s expected to possess $3.2 trillion in purchasing power by the year 2020.

We’ve established that members of Generation Z want to own a car, but their reasoning may be different from what you imagined. While Millennials are characterized as materialistic, Generation Z cares less about things like style/brand/popularity and more about price/safety/practicality.

This is evidenced by their preferred brands: Honda, Chevrolet, and Ford.

Their response to a question about preferred brands differs from that of a question we recently posed to our panel of high school students:

We asked students to list up to three Auto Companies that appealed to them. The top three responses were BMW (38%), Jeep (30%), and Mercedes Benz (27%).

This could mean that while members of Generation Z seem to be basing their purchasing decisions on more practical features, things like brand and prestige still appeal to them in a vacuum where price is not a factor.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that Generation Z has yet to sit through an hour and a half commute, but they seem legitimately excited about the notion of driving. That represents a huge opportunity for automakers to get out in front of what will soon be a key demographic.

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